What to do in Eilat in 3 to 5 days?

Sunny Eilat

Eilat is Israel’s vacation city, located at the southernmost tip of the country. It lies between the colorful mountains of the Eilat Mountains Reserve, the flat yellowish strip of the Arava Desert, and the beautiful turquoise Red Sea. I’ve spent much of my childhood in Eilat and still visit once in a while, so I can assure you that there’s a lot to see and do there! Many people pass through Eilat on their way to Jordan or from Jordan and don’t devote too much time to the city. But if you’re a nature lover and have always dreamt of exploring a desert, I do recommend staying in Eilat for a few days. So… What to do in Eilat? Here are some suggested itineraries for 3 to 5 days. 

Recommended >> My full travel guide to Eilat.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through the links, at no extra cost to you. These links help me keep the website alive and not depend on sponsors! Thank you in advance.

Where to stay in Eilat?

Before we begin with the itinerary, I want to talk a bit about accommodation in Eilat. There are a lot of hotels in Eilat, but they are usually expensive. So, if you’re on a budget, I would recommend booking a place in one of Eilat’s hostels. One of the best hostels is the Abraham Eilat Hostel, which is part of the famous Abraham Hostel chain, the leading hostel chain in Israel. I’ve stayed with them in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and enjoyed every minute.

Another option is to camp outdoors. There are some free beaches where you can set up your own tent.  Read more about camping in Eilat.

When is the best time to come?

The best time to come to Eilat to make the most out of your visit is anytime that isn’t summer. So, avoid coming to Eilat from June to September. The best season to come is in the spring, from February to May. If you want to spend lots of time on the beach, aim closer to May when the temperature is usually warm. If you are more into hiking in the mountains, aim more towards February. Just take into account that there might be more rain and then you’ll need to change your plans because hiking in the rain could be dangerous.

3 days in Eilat (with a car or public transport)

The best way to travel in and around Eilat is by car because public transportation doesn’t always reach every point. It can also save you lots of time because the buses aren’t always frequent. The minimum cost for renting a car would be around 150 ILS per day, not including fuel costs. You can search for cars and prices on Discover Cars.  To navigate, I recommend using Waze, which seems more accurate than Google Maps when it comes to driving.

If you prefer public transportation, I will also provide details about how you can reach each location via bus. If you’re interested, you can also check out Abraham Tours’ Negev Desert Tour, which includes sites mentioned in this 3-day itinerary – Timna Park, the Red Canyon, and Neot Semadar. 

Day 1: Explore the Arava

Stop #1: Timna Park

Start your day by driving from Eilat to Timna Park, 30 km north of Eilat. Timna Park is one of the main attractions in the area. It is set in the beautiful desert landscape of the Arava and includes stunning natural rock formations and the most ancient copper mines in the world. 

The highlights of the park include Solomon’s Pillars and Hathor’s Temple, an ancient Egyptian temple, the Arches Site and the Ancient Mines, and the Mushroom, a unique formation in the red sandstone.

You can drive around the park with your car, hike on the trails, or rent a bike from the Visitor Center next to the lake, which is at the other side of the park. There’s a family-friendly trail that takes about 1.5 hours and goes from the artificial lake to Solomon’s Pillars, and back through the Slaves’ Hill. There are also other trails if you are more experienced in off-road biking, but the bikes that they rent are only good for the family-friendly route, so you’ll need to bring your own bike.

The park is open from 8 AM to 4 PM daily. It’s best to come as early as possible to enjoy your time at the park, especially if you’re coming on a hot day. The entrance fee is 49 ILS. 

You can easily spend the entire morning in Timna Park. You can grab something to eat in Timna’s restaurant next to the artificial lake and then continue to the next stop.

How to get there by public transport?

To get to Timna Park by public transport, you’ll need to take bus 991 from the Central Station in Eilat and get off at Eliphaz Junction. From there, you’ll need to walk about 40 minutes to the park entrance. Keep in mind that the bus does not work on Shabbat (Saturday). If you want to do this day on Shabbat, it’s best to rent a car.

You can use Moovit to check other options for getting from Eilat to Timna Park by bus.

If you want to focus only on Timna Park this day, you can book a jeep tour from Eilat to Timna Park. This way, you won’t need to worry about public transportation.

Stop #2: The 5 Senses Plantation of Kibbutz Elifaz

Elifaz is a kibbutz located right next to Timna Park. But I recommend going to the plantation that’s a bit farther away from the kibbutz, on road number 90, to learn about agriculture in the Arava. Visiting is possible only as part of a tour, so you need to check availability in advance via the phone +972-52-3688384.  Tours are held from the beginning of October to the end of April, between 9:30 AM and 2 PM. If you’re traveling in a different season, you can spend more time in Timna Park. 

During the tour, you get to walk around the plantation, learn about agriculture in the desert, and pick the different herbs that grow there, including spinach and parsley. You can also include lunch, which is cooked on the spot using the Arava’s seasonal vegetables. The cost of visiting the 5 Senses Plantation is 42 ILS per person. 

How to get there by public transport?

There’s no bus that stops right next to the plantation. So, the only way you can get there is by walking. It’s about 5.5 kilometers from the Timna Park Visitor Center, which means about a 1-hour hike next to the road. Instead, I would suggest skipping this point and taking a bus to Kibbutz Lotan. Skip to point #3 to learn more about what you can do there. To get there, you can walk to the Elifaz Junction on Road 90, about a 40-minute walk from the Timna Park Visitor Center, and take bus number 23 to Lotan. The drive takes about 35 minutes and costs 12 ILS.  Take into consideration that the bus is not frequent, so it’s best to check Moovit for the timetable.

Stop #3: Kibbutz Lotan

I recommend ending the day in Kibbutz Lotan, a special kibbutz that strives to live in the desert in an ecological-sustainable way. The kibbutz members have built their houses using green techniques, saving energy and water, and also have the Center for Creative Ecology, where they teach people about natural architecture, organic food, and more. 

You can come and walk around the kibbutz, see the Eco-Kef playground, made from recycled materials, and explore the kibbutz’s bird park. They usually hold guided tours in the morning, so if you would like to hear more about what they are doing, you can change the plan and start your day in Lotan. You can call the kibbutz at +972-8-6356888 or send an email to office@klotan.co.il for more details. There’s also an audio guide, but currently, it’s only in Hebrew. 

If you want to truly experience life on a kibbutz, you can spend the night in the Lotan Desert Travel Hotel and head back to Eilat the next morning, or you can shift the days and do this day on your way to northern Israel.

Get a glimpse of Kibbutz Lotan in this video by Kibbutz Lotan:

Day 2: Discover the beaches and underwater world of Eilat

Stop #1: The Eilat Coral Beach Reserve

Eilat is home to the northernmost coral reef in the world, so on your second day in Eilat, I recommend focusing on the Red Sea and what it has to offer. Start your day early in the Coral Beach Reserve, where you can snorkel above the beautiful coral reef and view some of the local fish and underwater creatures. You will need to leave your ID at the reception to be able to use the site’s snorkel and mask. After the snorkeling, there are showers where you can wash off and change your clothes. 

It’s open from Sunday to Thursday and Saturday from 9 AM to 5 PM and on Fridays and holiday eves from 9 AM to 4 PM. In the summer, it’s open an hour later. 

Another option: If you want to see the underwater world much more clearly and are less into snorkeling or diving, you can visit the Underwater Observatory Park. There, you can walk around aquariums showing the local fish as well as fish from other areas of the world. You can also go down into the observatory to view the coral reef underwater. However, take into consideration that it’s extremely pricey – 125 ILS per adult! If you do want to go there, make sure to buy tickets through their website. There’s also a combo ticket for the observatory park and Timna Park. 

How to get there by public transport? 

If you chose to stay the night in Kibbutz Lotan, you can wake up early and catch one of the buses to Eilat Central Station. You can walk out of the kibbutz to the junction and catch any bus that is going south. The drive to Eilat takes about one hour.

From Eilat Central Station, you can catch bus number 30 outside the station and get off at the “Eilat Field School/ Coral Beach Reserve” station. From there, it’s a short walk to the reserve. The drive takes about 15 minutes. 

The underwater observatory in the distance

Stop #2: Relax on one of Eilat’s beaches

After enjoying time underwater, you can go to one of Eilat’s beaches and hang out there. You can read about some of my favorite beaches in Eilat here. Most of the Eilat beaches are free. But if you want a cool experience, you can go to the Dolphin Reef, located about 5 kilometers north of the Coral Beach Reserve. There’s an entrance fee, but there’s a lovely beach there, and you can also get a chance to see some of the local bottlenose dolphins. Read more about the different experiences on the Dolphin Reef’s official website.

One of Eilat's beaches

Stop #3: Experience Eilat nightlife

In the evening, you can go out and experience Eilat’s nightlife. Some of the best nightlife venues in Eilat include Mike’s Place, Paddy’s Irish Pub, and the Bears Pub. If you’re less into bars and pubs, you can go watch the musical fountain show in the park behind the Eilat City Museum.  It’s the largest musical foundation in Israel and plays Hebrew songs alongside English and classic music. It operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. In the winter, it starts at 7:30 PM and 8:30 PM and in the summer, at 8:30 PM and 9:30 PM. 

Day 3: Explore the Eilat Mountains

On the third day, set out early in the morning to the Eilat Mountains, one of the most beautiful geological areas in Israel and the surroundings. When the Great Rift Valley was formed, secondary rifts were also formed horizontally. Those rifts make it possible for us to see many types of rocks, one beside the other, which makes the Eilat Mountains so colorful. Some of the darker rocks you see are about 500 million years old! Road number 12, which passes through the Eilat Mountains, is one of the most amazing drives in Israel. It winds between the different mountains and valleys along the border with Egypt.

This day is best to do by car. If you want to use public transportation, you’ll be able to only visit Mount Yoash and the Red Canyon, and the bus doesn’t stop right next to those places, so you’ll need to walk quite a bit. If you prefer a smoother experience, you can book a guided jeep tour of the Red Canyon and Mount Yoash

The roads that passes through the Eilat Mountain Reserve

Stop #1: Mount Yoash

Drive about 8 km from the beginning of Road 12, and you’ll see to your left a little mountain with an antenna on top of it – that’s Mount Yoash. You can stop in the dirt parking lot and climb up to the top of Mount Yoash to enjoy a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains, of the Egyptian territory to the south, and of the enchanting Red Sea to the east. You can even see Jordan and Saudi Arabia. If you don’t have problems waking up really early, I recommend coming here at sunrise. The sunrise is amazing from Mount Yoash. The climb up and down takes about an hour, not including time on top of the mountain. 

How to get there by public transport?

From the Eilat Central Station, you can take bus number 392 headed to Be’er Sheva and ask the driver to stop at “Netafim Passage” (מעבר נטפים). From there, you will need to walk about 30 minutes south to Mount Yoash, alongside the road. Not a lot of cars drive on this road, but you still need to be careful. The bus operates every hour starting from 6:30 AM and the ride takes about 15 minutes. 

Stop #2: The Red Canyon

One of the most popular trails in the Eilat Mountains is the Red Canyon. So after Mount Yoash, I recommend returning to your car and continuing through the mountains another 11 km or so until you see the turn to the Red Canyon (in Hebrew: הקניון האדום). You’ll need to drive a few minutes on a dirt road that is quite bumpy, so be aware of that, especially because you’re using a rented car. Drive slowly and carefully. When you get to the end of the road, you can start the hike. Read more about it here >> Hiking the beautiful Red Canyon near Eilat. The basic route shouldn’t take you more than one to two hours, but there’s also a longer trail if you’re interested.

How to get there by public transport?

From Mount Yoash, you will need to walk back to the bus station at “Netafim Passage.” From there, you will need to catch bus 392 again to the north and get off two stations later at “Red Canyon” station. From the station, you’ll need to walk about 20 minutes on a dirt road until you reach the beginning of the trail.

The Red Canyon

Stop #3: Neot Semadar 

After hiking in the Eilat Mountains, you can continue on to civilization, to Neot Semadar, located about 40 minutes by car from the Red Canyon. Neot Semadar is a kibbutz located on the border between the Eilat Mountains and the Arava. It’s a kibbutz of spiritual people who do not speak during lunchtime, do not eat meat, and don’t have televisions in their homes. For many years, the Neot Semadar community did not allow visitors to enter their kibbutz, but today, they are more open, and you can request a tour of the place. The tour includes a visit to their Art Center, a unique structure in the heart of the kibbutz, where there are different workshops, and the winery, where they make wine from the local grapes that they grow. 

Visiting is possible on Sunday to Thursday from 10 AM to 2:30 PM and on Fridays from 9:30 to 12:30. For more details and booking, visit Neot Semadar’s website.

If you’re hungry, there’s a nice little restaurant on the junction of Neot Semadar, called Pundak Neot Semadar. The menu includes vegetarian options, including shakshuka, different kinds of toasts, hummus, tahini, and salads. 

How to get there by public transport?

You can get there by using bus number 392 and getting off at “Shizafon Junction/Road 12” (צומת שיזפון/ כביש 12), but the drive takes about 2 hours. So, if you finished the Red Canyon fairly late, this might not be relevant for you.

Stop #4: Mount Ayit Lookout

From Neot Semadar, drive about 8 km east on road number 40 until you see a brown sign indicating right towards Mount Ayit. This is another lookout, but this time over the Arava and the Jordanian Edom Mountains. You can see some of the settlements down below, including Lotan and Grofit.

After the lookout, you can either drive up to the north or return to Eilat. If you’re coming back to Eilat, you can make a quick stop at the Bird-Watching Park that’s near the Arava Border Crossing (Yitzhak Rabin Border Crossing). In the bird migration season in the spring, you might be able to see some birds before sunset. The entrance to the park is free of charge.

There’s no way to get from Neot Semadar to the lookout by public transport. Use Moovit to find your way to your next destination by bus.

More hiking in Eilat (the additional 2 days) 

If you want to spend more time in Eilat to explore the mountain area and the Arava, here are two more days you can add to your trip:

From Eilat Field School to Mount Yoash

This trail starts from Mount Zefahot, right behind the Eilat Field School, and makes its way all the way to Mount Yoash, through the Eilat Mountains Reserve. It is about 14 kilometers long and takes about 8 hours to complete. You can read about my experience on the trail, walking in the opposite direction from Mount Yoash to Mount Zefahot.

At the end of the hike, you can camp at Mount Yehoram Campground or take bus 392 back to Eilat. The last bus leaves around 8 PM from the “Netafim Passage” station, about a 30-minute walk from Mount Yoash. If you’re camping, make sure to pack enough food and water. You can find a list of water caching service providers here.

This trail is part of the Israel National Trail. So, if you’re coming in the right season (spring or fall), you can choose to continue the Israel Trail hike up north. Read more about the Israel National Trail here.

The view from Mount Zefahot

From Eilat to Shchoret Canyon

This hike is around 18 kilometers long. It’s a flat hike, but there’s no shade along it, so if it’s sunny, it could be challenging. Pack enough water and snacks, and wake up as early as you can to avoid the hot hours of the day.

If you’re coming from the southern beach area, you can wait for the first bus that will take you to the starting point, bus number 16. It leaves the Eilat Field School around 9 AM and gets to the Ice Mall around 20 minutes later. From there, you can begin the hike through the Arava towards Shchoret Canyon, passing by a number of interesting points along the way. You can read more about this hike in my post >> Birds, Agriculture, and Ancient Wells Just Outside Eilat.

After arriving at the Flamingo Pools, you can hike back to the path junction that led to the pools and turn towards road number 90. You’ll have to cross the road to the other side to get to Shchoret Canyon. They’ve recently put a road barrier in between the two lanes, so please cross very carefully and make sure there’s no car coming your way. This is your responsibility to keep safe!

You can continue from here to Shchoret Canyon by crossing the road and walking according to the signage until you reach Shchoret Canyon Campground. There, you can set up your tent and start the hike in Schoret Canyon the next day. The campground is without any facilities, so make sure to pack enough water for the day and the day afterward.

If you don’t want to hike in Schoret, you can catch a bus from Road 90. 

Near the Shchoret Canyon

Optional: Hike through the Shchoret Canyon

As I’ve mentioned, you can camp near Shchoret Canyon (the “Black Canyon”) and hike through it the next day. There are some really nice lookouts along the way, as well as an interesting ancient leopard’s trap. From the Schoret Canyon Campground, continue on the green-marked trail until you enter the canyon. This is also part of the Israel National Trail, so you might see the orange-blue-white marking on some stones on the way. After about 1.2 km, you will get to a fork in the trail. Choose the red-marked trail. After an easy climb and about 1.5 km, you’ll get to a point where the red trail meets a black trail. Turn right on the black-marked trail and continue along it until you get back to the campground. It’s an easy and very nice trail, that is about 4 km long and takes about 2-4 hours to complete.

If you want, you can make your hike longer by hiking to Amram Pillars and back. Instead of turning right on the black-marked trail, turn left and hike about 4 km until you reach a trail junction. Continue straight on the red-marked trail until you reach the blue-marked trail. Turn right and follow the signs to Amram Pillars. Those pillars are a beautiful example of erosion in the desert and are very similar to the Solomon Pillars in Timna Park.

After the hike, you can return on foot to Road 90 and catch a bus from there.

Map from Amudanan

Conclusion

There’s a lot to do in Eilat and its surroundings. I haven’t even mentioned everything. But if you have at least three days to explore the area, I recommend devoting one day to the Arava, one day to the Eilat Mountains, and one day to Eilat and its coral reef. Of course, you can also add a ay trip to Petra in the neighboring Jordan. 

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Yours,

Lior

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2 comments

the #1 Itinerary February 12, 2019 - 12:30 pm
Great post ?
Saturday Morning in Timna Park – Backpack Israel April 25, 2019 - 7:11 am
[…] See how you can combine Timna Park in your trip to Eilat – 3 to 5 Days in Eilat: Travel Ideas. […]
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